A U.S. military helicopter with two crew members aboard made an emergency landing in Okinawa Prefecture, local police said Monday, just two days after a similar incident in the southern Japanese island prefecture.
No one was believed to be injured after the helicopter landed at a waste disposal site, about 250 meters away from a hotel in the village of Yomitan.
The U.S. military said the AH-1 attack helicopter belonging to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefecture made a precautionary landing, according to the police. The Marine Corps said it will have the helicopter return to the air base as soon as possible after fixing the problem.
The latest incident is likely to further increase public anxiety about the huge presence of the U.S. military in Okinawa which hosts the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan.
The prefecture has seen a series of accidents and mishaps involving U.S. military aircraft, leaving local residents concerned about their safety.
"There will be more incidents unless we remove U.S. military bases" from Okinawa, Kazumi Nakasone, a 67-year-old local resident living near the scene, said.
The police corrected the number of crew members aboard to two from the initially announced four.
The incident follows a similar emergency landing by a U.S. Marine Corps UH-1 helicopter, belonging to the same base, on a beach on Ikei Island, a small islet in Okinawa, on Saturday.
Also on Ikei Island, an AH-1 attack helicopter based at Futenma made an emergency landing on a farm path last year, while a window of a U.S. chopper fell on school grounds in the city of Ginowan hosting the Futenma base last month.
"We've seen too many incidents. It's natural that people in Okinawa are worried about safety," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, adding the government will urge the U.S. military to ensure prevention of a recurrence of incidents. A senior prefectural official said Okinawa will urge the U.S. military and the Japanese government to ground both AH-1 and UH-1 choppers until causes of the incidents are known.
Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. military forces in Okinawa, offered an apology for the recent incidents to Okinawa Deputy Gov. Moritake Tomikawa on the phone, according to an Okinawa prefectural official.